Media Consolidation -- a Historical Perspective

Media Reform Information Center

In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S.

in 2000, the number had fallen to six. Since then, there have been more mergers and the scope has expanded to include new media like the Internet market. More than 1 in 4 Internet users in the U.S. now log in with AOL Time-Warner, the world's largest media corporation.

In 2004, Bagdikian's revised and expanded book, The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) -- now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric's NBC is a close sixth.


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Barack Obama will change the system part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the need for systematic change in this country and why Barack Obama had the best plan and record to accomplish that of any of the candidates running. In that diary I talked about his support for public financing of elections and the bills he had introduced to make that a reality with progressive champion Russ Feingold. Since I wrote that I have found out he introduced a bill to publicly finance elections in the Illinois State Senate too. Hard to still make the claim that he is only doing this to win votes.

There is a old saying in the media reform movement "if media is not your number one issue, it has to be your second issue." In this post I am going to focus on my second issue, media reform.

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Action: One Week to Stop Big Media

The FCC wants to give Big Media a big handout on December 18 -- but we can stop them. There is only about one year left of the Bush Administration and they are rushing to give big rewards to there giant corporate friends. One of those big corporate friends is Big Media. And Kevin Martin, the chair of the FCC that deals with media policy wants to give another hugely unpopular giveaway to Big Media. Thankfully the democracy fighters at Free Press have assembled a massive coalition that is fighting back. It's called Stop Big Media and they've been doing great work. And now that there is only a week left until the ruling I decided to write a action diary because this is one of the most important issues out there for progressives and all who believe in fairness.

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An entrepreneurial strategy for progressive cable TV

Yesterday I wrote about an important opportunity for making cable TV a bit more progressive - the possibility of replacing Tucker Carlson with a progressive on MSNBC.  The comments on that post showed clearly that there are a lot of people thinking about how to make cable more progressive - ranging from a wide-ranging debate on who should represent progressives on cable TV, to a thoughtful post on how to schedule a progressive evening lineup, and more.  I think this kind of energy is really valuable, and I hope that it's not wasted on MSNBC.  While the channel does appear willing to experiment with progressive voices, it will never be a reliable progressive cable channel, and we shouldn't expect it to be.  Instead, we should be planning to create our own progressive cable channel.  Luckily, recent FCC rulings have just made that a little bit easier.

On Wednesday, the FCC slashed rates on leased cable access to 10 cents per subscriber per month.  With leased access, independent programmers can pay to gain access to part of a cable carrier's lineup.  Rates on leased access were about four times higher prior to Wednesday's decision.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've exchanged a few emails with Bob Fertik, President of, about the FCC's various efforts to regulate cable.  We both agree that this decision opens a door for liberal entrepreneurs to begin laying the groundwork for a national progressive cable news channel.  (And I should also give credit to a friend of Bob, who spoke to me about some of the broad outlines of a strategy for progressive cable, which I outline below.)  The basic strategy is simple: line up prime time leased access on cable channels in a number of major media markets, and put progressive programming in that time.  If that strategy can succeed with representation in many major markets, then we might be able to leverage it into a dedicated national channel.  While the strategy is simple, it's certainly not easy.  Over the flip, I'll have more on what we will need to pull together to get this idea to be successful, and opportunities for liberal entrepreneurs to make money while creating a national progressive cable network.

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Adding progressive voices to cable news

Earlier this week, the NYT noted that MSNBC is becoming a hub for left-wing talk on cable TV.  The article's assertion that Chris Matthews counts as a liberal, or Joe Scarborough as a moderate, is a pretty big stretch.  And the network's decision to replace Don Imus's racist and sexist morning talk show with Joe Scarborough several months ago hardly counts as a progressive programming decision.  Nevertheless, Keith Olbermann calls MSNBC his home; Tucker Carlson's show is on the ropes; and until Wednesday, network executives were considering adding a talk show with Rosie O'Donnell to the mix.  (The O'Donnell deal fell apart, apparently, because MSNBC wanted a longer commitment than O'Donnell was willing to make.)  If Carlson does get the boot, and a new liberal talk show host akin to O'Donnell joins the MSNBC lineup, then the network will easily count as the most progressive of the three major cable news channels.

The cable news industry - indeed, the entire cable TV industry - is in a very interesting position these days.  Poor service and high prices have led to widespread dissatisfaction with cable carriers, especially Comcast. There's significant buyer dissatisfaction with the overall cable-purchasing model as well, as most cable subscribers clamor for a la carte channels.  At the same time, there are signs that the FCC will almost certainly begin regulating the industry more heavily.

The new FCC regulations, which appear to be focused on expanding access to cable news channels by liberalizing leased access rules, open up some interesting opportunities for bringing more progressive voices to cable news.

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